Getting nothing, but paying for it

PHILADELPHIA. Even keeping the status quo for city services like 9-1-1 dispatch and trash collection apparently costs more next year than it does now, meaning those higher taxes Philadelphians are bracing for in the next budget will likely pay for keeping things the way they are.

City Council will vote Thursday whether on a property tax increase is the best way to raise millions needed to close a budget gap for the 2010-2011 budget estimated at well over $100 million. But a lot of wrangling is over progressive initiatives like planting thousands of new sidewalk trees and hiring hundreds of new city workers to fill vacancies.

Councilman Bill Green wants to trim new programs and the number of new hires to keep a property tax increase at about 5 percent. Others on Council are willing to go as high as 7 or 9 percent.

“No one I’ve talked to wants a tax increase if it’s going to pay for a new service,” Green said.

City finance director Rob Dubow said essential services like prisons, firefighting and trash collection require some current vacancies be filled in the new year.

“There will be a number of vacancies you can’t just say we aren’t going to fill them. That includes firefighters, dispatchers, paramedics,” Dubow said. “There would be real service impacts.”

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